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By Jayne • May 13th, 2008 •
Dear Mrs. Rigler,
When your publicist queried DA about a possible review for your book “Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict,” I admit to groaning and rolling my eyes. Not another book designed to appeal to the Austeninistas, I thought. Can’t these authors think of their own plots and characters? Must they keep endlessly recycling versions of Austen’s books? Then I caught sight of something that grabbed my attention. This was supposed to be about a modern 21st century woman who transposes back in time and gets to see England as it was then and who discovers just how dirty, germ-filled, and restricted a place it really was. Well, that’s different, I thought. I’ll give it a try.
When I hauled it out of its mailing envelope, I said a silent prayer that it wasn’t going to be a ‘Chick Lit’ style book with a heroine condemned to doing stupid things in order to be ‘cute’ and show the difference in life then vs now. You answered that prayer with a sharp heroine who quickly decides it’s in her best interests to curb her language and actions. The manner in which she initially ‘deals’ with her transposition is realistic. The way in which she manages to blend into a society so different and ‘pass’ is inventive and totally convincing. Her gradual adjustment to her new body makes sense as do her occasional slip-ups.
I did wonder at how easily her confidante accepted her confession of the truth. The fortune teller was an interesting character. Her explanation of the fluidity of time served as well as anything to account for the transposition as well as show why Courtney might have trouble getting back home.
I loved Courtney’s reactions to the grim, grimy reality of life in Austen England. Though she quickly learned not to speak her disgust at the skeevy waiters, overwhelming BO, nasty inns and the horrors of drinking and bathing in the waters of Bath, her inner asides were priceless. I almost LOL when she acts like any star struck denizen of LA during her brief visit to London.
Up through the end of her visit to Bath, I can understand how she doesn’t fully comprehend how her actions can impact the lives of others. Mary pretty much finally lays it out in terms that anyone who has a minimal IQ could understand. That coupled with Courtney’s own knowledge of Austen’s world through her repetitive readings of Austen’s books seemed to finally ‘bring it all home’ to Courtney. Which makes it all the more surprising what she almost does in London. As I read that scene, I kept thinking WTF? How can she do this, risk this, continue with this when she knows the consequences should she be caught? Yes, Courtney does seem to ‘get it’ after returning home and being confronted with her mother’s suspicions but she should have already ‘gotten it’ after Bath.
I also still have some questions about the final denouement of the scene with Edgeworth. At first I thought that Courtney finally accepts where she is and has no further thoughts of trying to return to her modern life in LA. But then the epilogue diary entry coupled with what Courtney told James makes me think there was some kind of a fusion thing going on. So, what really happened or are we supposed to fill in whatever we want there?
While I am tired of authors retelling Austen’s stories from endless different viewpoints and carrying on with the lives of the next generation of characters, I thought your clever working of the situations from her books into your book was great. After all, Austen was writing about the world she knew so it’s not surprising that those same circumstances would be encountered by anyone living in those times. I enjoyed watching Courtney grow as a person and delighted in her finally finding her own ‘Mr Darcy.’ B+